CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – UPDATE: News Channel 8 has learned the man who was directly struck by lightning on Clearwater Beach on Sunday has died.
Police say 32-year-old Garry Perks went into a cardiac arrest after being hit by the lightning strike.
He was from New Port Richey, Florida.
ORIGINAL STORY: A man was struck by lightning at Clearwater Beach near Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill this afternoon.
According to Clearwater Fire Department Deputy Chief Marvin Pettingill, a total of eight people were hurt following the lightning strike.
Around 12:30 p.m. the Clearwater Beach lifeguards all left their towers due to bad weather.
Officials told News Channel 8 the lightning strike call came in around 12:43 p.m. Sunday on the beach near Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, located at 7 Rockaway Street.
The man in his 40’s struck by lightning suffered cardiac arrest. He is in critical condition.
The other seven people were affected as they stood near the volleyball court just outside of Frenchy’s. Four of them were taken to Morton Plant Hospital, one person was taken to Tampa General Hospital with burns. Three others refused treatment.
First responders are now praising the quick action from customers and others nearby who started giving CPR to those who needed it and for dragging them into the restaurant as the rain continued to pour down on them.
One witness told 8 On Your Side people were grabbing their things and moving off the beach when it all happened.
“It’s like an explosion,” Ryan Tuttle said. “It sounded like a bomb had gone off. You know, like a literal bomb went off when it hit. But it hit right here.”
Teena Shelton ran to help those affected by the lightning right after it happened.
“It threw four grown people in the air… The people in the restaurant had seen it,” Shelton said. “The girl had passed out. Then another girl started having seizures. It was chaos in there.”
As a reminder, Clearwater Fire and Rescue uses the phrase: when you hear the roar, go indoors.